Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Chinese Dinosaurs and Challenging Camels

There was an era when life was chaos. When monsters ruled the land. When primitive creatures fought tooth and nail.

But enough about the elections in Bet Shemesh already. (Ba-da-dum!) I'm not discussing it in this post, even though there is a breaking news item that the Israel Supreme Court just rejected the appeal by the charedi parties against the disqualification of the previous elections, and ruled that there will indeed be new elections. There are two breaking stories in the news that are of relevance to anyone interested in the field of Torah and science.

First is the discovery that Pompeii-like volcanic ash was responsible for the instant death of thousands of species found as fossils in the Jehol beds in China. Actually, the relevance here is not so much the cause of death, but rather the fossil beds themselves. Thousands and thousands of fossils have been found in this location, including nearly 1000 species of invertebrates and 140 species of vertebrates. The latter category includes fossils of amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, pterosaurs, birds and mammals (you can see the full list at this link). These are all from species that no longer exist. The mammals, for example, are primitive species with splayed legs like those of reptiles.

For people who insist that the creation account in Genesis is to be taken literally as factual history, there is a big problem here. Are these fossils from Day Five or Day Six of creation? If they are from Day Five, then there should not be any fossils from terrestrial creatures, which were not created yet. But if they are from Day Six, then why are there only fossils of primitive species and none of contemporary species?

If somebody wants to simply admit that they have no answer for the scientific challenges, I'm fine with that. Because the other breaking story of relevance is "Camel Archeology Contradicts Bible" - that carbon-dating of the earliest known domestic camel bones shows that they were introduced to Israel hundreds of years later than the patriarchs. A journalist contacted me for my comment, but I had nothing to say. I'm not a zooarcheologist and I have no means of refuting this claim. Nor do I know how to reconcile such a thing with the Torah. Rav Kook writes that "we should not immediately refute any idea which comes to contradict anything in the Torah, but rather we should build the palace of Torah above it," but I don't know how to apply that in this case. (Fortunately, I am long past the stage of my life where such questions keep me awake at night. Now I stay awake at night agonizing over more pressing problems, such as how to best educate my kids, how to raise funds for my museum, and how to get my python to start eating again.)

In light of the fact that I have nothing to say with regard to the Camel Challenge, I can't complain if others want to have a similar lack of response to the Chinese Dinosaurs (although I think that it is wrong to insist to non-charedi audiences that they should not even attempt to deal with such questions). But what I do protest is if people claim that there is no challenge from the Chinese Dinosaurs. Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, for example, in Torah, Chazal and Science (p. 493) claims that it is forbidden to believe that the world is more than 5774 years old, and further insists that there is no legitimate scientific evidence challenging the Biblical account of creation. His purported rationale for this is that "the laws of nature were different back then." Rabbi Meiselman claims that scientists have no way of knowing otherwise, and that all their conclusions are based on an unproven premise that the laws of nature were always constant.

In fact, the consistency of historical processes is not a presumption of modern science - it is a conclusion, drawn from observations of the uniformity present in geology and other phenomena. This was the subject of the very first post that ever appeared on this blog, William Smith and the Principal of Faunal Succession.

(In a possible attempt to counter this argument, Rabbi Meiselman claims on p. 504 that the results of a universe that developed under completely different laws of nature over six days perfectly mimic that of a universe that developed under a single set of laws over billions of years! I'm simply lost for words that such a proposal could be put in print, and that a book espousing such a thing can be taken seriously by anyone.)

The Chinese dinosaurs present another refutation of the notion that there is no scientific challenge to the literalist approach. Here we have amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, pterosaurs, birds and mammals, all of which happily (or unhappily) lived their lives and died, all before contemporary species appeared in the world. And yet Rabbi Meiselman and others would insist that all this presents no reason to believe that the world is any more than 5774 years old - and they insist that it is forbidden to believe otherwise. This is despite the statements of numerous widely-respected Torah authorities who say that it is perfectly acceptable to believe otherwise.

If people want to confess that they have no answer to challenges from science, that's fine. But don't take real challenges and claim that they have no basis. Especially if you're going on a crusade to claim that anyone saying otherwise is beyond the pale of Judaism.

UPDATE: The best (and indeed only) response that I have seen regarding the Camel Challenge is by Prof. Aaron Koller at The Times Of Israel.

47 comments:

  1. By now belief in dinosaurs is so ingrained in the public that it takes as much courage to question their existence as it did to assert their existence 300-400 years ago, when the shoe was on the other foot.

    I don't have that courage. And I'm not a charedi dogmatist, who is required to believe the 5774 age claim. Nor do I believe for a second that chazal were right about everything. With all that, I have to say, with every day I find myself more and more skeptical of dinosaurs and what we are told to believe of them.

    Consider that no one has ever found a complete dinosaur skeleton. Very few people even ever see real dinosaur bones - they are kept hidden away, while all we ever see are models that we are told to accept on faith as accurate reproductions. All the images of dinosaurs we know of are extrapolations based on someone's imagination. In many cases the extrapolation is based on a single bone or bone fragment.

    Consider, also, that people in this field are constantly changing and modifying previous assumptions and statements. The dinosaur pictures I read about as a kid are not the ones we read about today. The public didn't read about "raptors" fifty years ago. Dinosaurs go in and out of fashion like ice cream flavors.

    You will ask, can so many people be part of a "hoax"? I'm not saying its a total hoax. But scientists are human beings just as, say, salesmen. We have all seen more than enough examples of so-called science being manipulated by interested parties. So a good rationalist should be just as skeptical of claims made in the name of "science" as Rabbi Slifkin is about claims made in the name of "Gedolim." Doesn't mean to reject. But be skeptical. To do otherwise to is to turn the belief in "science" into more of a religion than the one we already have.



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  2. "Consider that no one has ever found a complete dinosaur skeleton. "

    Of course they have!!! Hundreds and hundreds!!!

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  3. Very few people even ever see real dinosaur bones - they are kept hidden away, while all we ever see are models that we are told to accept on faith as accurate reproductions.

    BTW, do you know that all of the versions of the US Constitution that you see in textbooks are reproductions of the original? And the president that you see on TV is just a broadcast image. I've never actually seen him in person; just the traffic jams that the "President" causes when he arrives in my town. What are they hiding from us?

    And to take it further, did you know that the Sifrei Torah in your shul are not from Har Sinai?

    More seriously, you understand that this is an argument for a conspiracy theory. It is not that they are preserving the original material or making copies so that the material can be shared; rather the original material doesn't exist and they simply got together and fabricated it. You would not accept such an argument in any other area of your life.

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  4. With regard to camel:
    According to http://ohr.edu/2053 :
    "We have the eighteenth century B.C.E. Canophorin tablets in Northern Syria which list the domesticated animals and in which the camel is specifically mentioned. Another archaeological discovery depicts a camel in a kneeling position. A seal dating back to this period depicts a rider sitting on a camel. So, it turns out to be an accurate report of the details, not a later anachronistic projection into the past."
    I hate to refer to X-tian sources, but here http://www.pulpithelps.com/www/docs/988-5459 there is a list of references too.
    We should not take for granted every scientific claim and worry how to reconcile it with Torah. Let scientists worry about reconciling their finding with Torah.

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  5. R Jack Love (Chair, Halakhah Dept, YCT) wrote a piece for Toras Aish on the Wife-Sister stories and Avraham's camels. Interestingly, the only Wife-Sister story that includes camels in the gift is where the giver is Pharoah. The Philistines never give Avraham or Yitzchaq any, they didn't have camels.

    So Avraham gets his camels from Egypt in particular. A details which actually reflects *more* knowledge of the era, not less. Next we hear, the servant brings camels with him to Transjordan as a gift to the family of whomever he finds to be Yitzchaq's bride. And sp he gets to Rivqa, who immediately recognizes them as Avraham' -- this is proof he is who he says he is. Because camels weren't part of Canaanite economy; the fact that cousin Avraham had some was a rumor that preceded him.

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  6. The dating of camel bones to some centuries after the presumed age of the patriarchs does not, ipso facto, represent a challenge to the biblical narrative. One would have to examine hundreds of different camel bones from a variety of areas in the region and do a calibrated radiocarbon dating on them to draw significant conclusions. The apparent age discrepancy may simply point to insufficient data to draw firm conclusions. I recall that not too long ago the alleged age discrepancy was said to be a millenium.

    The finding of a variety of land, bird, and sea fossils from the early Cretaceous period (130-120 ma) is also not a challenge except to those who take the creation days as literal. In my conception, the entire creation narrative takes place during and after the great Yucatan impact 65 ma. In fact, the creation 'days', as I see it, are eras witnessing the gradual unfolding of new life on earth based on the survivors of the catastrophe. All those fossils in China predate that event, and are irrelevant to the question of the sequence of life as described in Gen.I.

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  7. @ Doubting Thomas:

    "Consider that no one has ever found a complete dinosaur skeleton."

    This is incorrect. Many complete and nearly complete skeletons have been found.

    "Very few people even ever see real dinosaur bones - they are kept hidden away, while all we ever see are models that we are told to accept on faith as accurate reproductions."

    What we see are generally casts of the originals, which are considered too valuable for public display.

    "All the images of dinosaurs we know of are extrapolations based on someone's imagination."

    This is true, because we generally have no soft tissue remains from dinosaurs and no-one was around then to photograph them. We do not know what colour they were, what their skin was like exactly, etc. But we know the general shapes and sizes of their bodies and organs, what they ate, what ate them, etc.

    "In many cases the extrapolation is based on a single bone or bone fragment."

    This is also true, but as mentioned above, there are also many complete and nearly complete skeletons.

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  8. "Consider, also, that people in this field are constantly changing and modifying previous assumptions and statements. The dinosaur pictures I read about as a kid are not the ones we read about today. The public didn't read about "raptors" fifty years ago. Dinosaurs go in and out of fashion like ice cream flavors."

    Palaeontologists revise their assignments of skeletal remains to one dinosaur species or another over time as new remains are found, or through other lines of evidence. Two skeletons that were thought to be, for example, a juvenile and an adult of the same species may be better classified as individuals of two different species, and vice versa. This process of continual refinement of ideas based on new evidence is at the core of scientific practice. Calling it "going in and out of fashion" makes it sound like some kind of literary exercise.

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  9. Camels may have been rarer in the times of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, so that, as the study finds, their bones have not have (yet) been found at sites corresponding to that time period. Just because they haven't been found yet does not mean they were not used in the area.

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  10. Anyway how would not finding earlier examples of domesticated camels prove that there were no domesticated camels then. Perhaps they just haven't been found yet?

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  11. So, um, this camel thing?

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  12. For around the last twenty years, the best archeologists have agreed that camel trade caravans in northeast Africa and Canaan began with Assyrian and Persian invasions in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE, or long after the patriarchal period would have occurred. For more, see http://www.judaismandscience.com/?s=camels&x=22&y=12

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  13. I just checked under my dining room table for Rabbi Slifkin and he was nowhere to be found! I hope the "rationalists" have a way to explain this faith shattering marvel!

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  14. Regarding your python's not eating, PLEASE, for safety of your family & those who handle the snake, be extra careful & attentive.

    A snake starving itself is a sign it's preparing for a big meal, and there are many horrific stories, lo aleinu, of pet snakes getting out and accomplishing horrible things.

    Please consult a competent herpetologist ASAP regarding his refusal to eat.

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  15. I believe the millions of fossils of extinct animals are from the "many worlds that Hashem created and destroyed" before this one.

    I am certain that this finding about camels will eventually be found to be incorrect, and that camels were domesticated and used before the time of the Avos.

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  16. http://moodle.tau.ac.il/pluginfile.php/86445/mod_forum/attachment/6473/Camel%20domestication%20ANE.pdf

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  17. "Of course they have [found a complete dinosaur skeleton!!!] Hundreds and hundreds!!!

    Where do you get that from? Everything I'm reading says just the opposite. The most complete T. Rex ever found is only 75-80% complete. There are only six "relatively" complete diplodocus skeletons, but none actually complete. Ask.com and yahoo answers.com, just to name the better known sites, both say there is no complete dinosaur skeleton.

    After posting this I saw others have noted some very strange facts about dinosaur discoveries. Nearly all of the discoveries have come from people setting out to find dinosaur bones, who then - lo and behold - discover dinosaur bones. Almost no bones have ever been discovered accidentally, the way the dead sea scrolls were discovered by the Bedouin boy. And of course, bone hunters now manage to find bones in fields where ordinary people have lived and worked for thousands of years, somehow never coming across them. Does that absolutely prove something funny? No. But it sure seems odd.

    Joe Q - I appreciate your measured response.

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  18. for those that like pictures...


    https://www.google.ca/search?q=complete+dinosaur+skeleton&sa=X&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&ei=PS7zUsW5CYisyAHDrYDIDg&ved=0CE0QsAQ&biw=1024&bih=653

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  19. According to this 2011 article: http://geekologie.com/2011/10/most-complete-dinosaur-skeleton-to-date.php "This is the most complete dinosaur skeleton found to date, with a whopping 98% of its bones preserved."

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  20. "But if they are from Day Six, then why are there only fossils of primitive species and none of contemporary species?"
    Why, because the contemporary species evolved after this eruption (rather quickly, natch) from the surviving primitive species. (OK, maybe I'm not being so serious.)

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  21. With all due respect Rabbi Slifkin what do you mean you have nothing to say? Isn't this proof that the stories of the forefethers Abraham Isaac and Jacob cannot be true and this shows that the Torah is meant to teach morals ethics and values and not about the history of the forefathers?

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  22. Regarding your python.... you could perhaps feed a dog to it.
    It doesn't always work, as you can see here...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77L157nFGOo

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  23. Now I stay awake at night agonizing over more pressing problems, such as how to best educate my kids, how to raise funds for my museum, and how to get my python to start eating again.

    This is nice to hear. I hope that you wrote this in order of importance. :)

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  24. Leaonard: Assuming that the current theory is always correct , and the Torah necessarily is the one that is wrong isn't rationalism. Espectially on something as soft as (1) dating the forefathers, Canaan, Egypt, etc... in comparison to each other, and (2) determinging when camels were first domesticated in any of those dating schemes. You're acting like even the first problem -- matching dates in the various histories -- is a done deal.

    Second, I noticed no one ran with the suggestion I gave from R' Love, that the Torah itself implies that camels were a rarity in that time and region. Presumably, all we can date is when their domestication became a significant part of the economy. More than that, by placing the camels ONLY in the story where the husband and wife go down to Egypt, we have a distinguishing feature between something Documentarians attributed to being different versions of the same legend that shows *more* historical accuracy than they presume. In short the Author of the Torah knew that Gerar had no camels at the time, and in Egypt they were a rarity.

    The camel thing is evidence FOR, not against.

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  25. Toby KAtz siad:
    "I believe ...

    I am certain ..."

    It would be more correct to start both paragraphs with "I believe", as your certainty seems to be based on faith.

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  26. "I believe the millions of fossils of extinct animals are from the "many worlds that Hashem created and destroyed" before this one."


    I don't think anyone who rattles of this little apologetic actually thinks through what it's supposed to mean. Was there a destruction of the world 6000 years ago followed by a new round of creation? That's just as untenable as any other young earth theory. If it means that in an allegorical sense there were epochs leading up to the birth of civilization and the beginnings of recorded history, then six days of creation are also allegorical.

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  27. The results of science experiments have error bars, due to errors in measurement, that can sometimes multiply. They joke that in astronomy, the error bars are in the exponent!

    Looking at the article to which Talmid provided a link, we can get the same impression about the theory about when camels became domesticated: Archeologists drastically differ about the introduction of the camel to the Middle East from between 800 BCE to 2000 BCE! Hardly solid proof that the camel is an anachronism in the Tanach.

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  28. The camel thing goes back and forth. A few decades ago the same argument was made and then wham! They did find camel bones that date back to the late Hittite empire. Now they say they don't. Just wait a week...

    There is a retort to the Chinese dinosaur conundrum - perhaps no modern species lived in the area. After all, if a volcano explodes in the middle of the United States (chas v'shalom) you won't find many kangaroo bones when you go digging centuries later.

    Finally, I've never understood the phrase "nishtaneh hateva" in the face of the posuk "Chok nasan v'lo ya'avor"

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  29. R' Natan, a reply concerning the article in the Israel Times would have been rather easy and appropriate. The article reports on an unsubstantiated conjecture that the earliest camel bones that were found at copper smelting sites in the southern Arava were from the late 900s BCE, represented the earliest introduction of camels to Israel. Such a generalization from one site is laughable. The article however goes on to state incongruosly that camels were domesticated by 2000 BCE and that Egypt was a prime source and had taken over those sites in the 900 BCE period. Somehow this tidbit isn't reflected in the headline and used to question the conclusion of those archaeologists. It is also entirely consistent with the thesis of Rav Yaakov Love (a musmach of Rav Gustman) that was cited by Micha Berger. This article headline is much ado about nothing other than anti-biblical bias among some archeologists.

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  30. I'm not an expert in the history of the domestication of the Camel - but I have heard the claim before that Camels were not domesticated at the time of the Avot, however that is not necessarily a challenge to the Torah.

    It is possible that the meaning of the word has developed over time. In the time of the Avot גמל may have been a generic term for a beast of burden (such as donkey). As Camels became domesticated, they were included in the definition of גמל and eventually the word became exclusively associated with them.

    There are many examples of words that have changed meanings over time - when we see the word נר we think of a wax candle, yet in the Tanach and Gemara it is clearly referring to an oil-lamp, which we would not consider as a candle today.

    צדיק, שופת, זונה are also other words that had different meanings at different points in the Tenach

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  31. Mighty Garnel Ironheart said
    Finally, I've never understood the phrase "nishtaneh hateva" in the face of the posuk "Chok nasan v'lo ya'avor"

    "Chok nasan v'lo ya'avor" in context is not necessarily talking about biology to which nishtaneh hateva is usually applied. that having been said, there are other pesukim that seem to indicate that this world was created to operate according to fixed rules (such as the posuk in yirmiyahu "chukos shamayim va'aretz").
    many years ago when i was in medical school, i had an extensive discussion with a non jewish professor regarding judaism's view of biological evolution. i argued that judaism requires a belief in some sort of biological evolution because on the one hand the poskim state in certain cases that nishtaneh hateva, while on the other hand pesukim indicate that this world operates according to fixed laws. the easiest way to reconcile those two ideas is to believe in biological evolution, such that the fixed laws of the universe bring about "nishtaneh hateva".
    hope that was helpful.

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  32. Hebrew and Phoenician letters seem to be around earlier than the times of the avos. The third letter, gimel is certainly based on a camel, (same letters) just like bais is based on bayit (house) and vav on hook, and ayin on eye and peh on mouth.

    I may be mistaken on the age of the aleph bet, but it would not take much to determine when these letters were in use, and if they were around then, it would appear that the domestication of the camel was as old as the aleph bet. (if camels were merely undomesticated wild animals, it would seem unlikely that they would be made as the basis of an important symbol).

    Chaim Twerski

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  33. How do we know when the Avot lived? There are clear gaps in the chronology in the Chumash; do we take Seder Olam Rabbah literally? We know that it is missing about 160 years during the period of Persian rule; perhaps it added years earlier in the chronology?

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  34. elemir a. said...
    for those that like pictures...

    https://www.google.ca/search?q=complete+dinosaur+skeleton&sa=X&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&ei=PS7zUsW5CYisyAHDrYDIDg&ved=0CE0QsAQ&biw=1024&bih=653


    You are proving the point! These pictures are mere copies. I won't be satisfied without actual bones sent down the tubes of internet.

    Plus, look at this picture:

    http://www.infoplease.com/dk/science/encyclopedia/palaeontology.html

    If you look closely, it says the following: "Bones have been replaced over millions of years by other minerals". Sounds like the dog ate their homework!

    There is something fishy going on here...

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  35. It boggles my mind how a supposed rationalist can so easily wave away the camel conundrum with a "sorry, not interested, I got more important things to worry about, like feed my snake." Why concern oneself with anything in the Bible, including the age of the universe? Either you think and grapple about these things, or you don't

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  36. I don't think you will find any help in the alphabet. If anything, that opens a whole new can of worms. Current archaeological theory is that the Phoenician alphabet developed in the eleventh century with proto-Hebrew developing from that.

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  37. Chaim Twersky said, "I may be mistaken on the age of the aleph bet, but it would not take much to determine when these letters were in use, and if they were around then, it would appear that the domestication of the camel was as old as the aleph bet."

    I thought of that as well, but I looked on Wikipedia, and it said that the Gezer calendar and the Zayit Stone are the earliest texts written in Hebrew--they're only from about 1000 BCE. Of course, that doesn't mean that they didn't write Hebrew before that.
    The link Lazar provided to the article by Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb notes that only in Hebrew do the names of the letters have any meaning--not in Greek, Arabic, Akkadian, etc., even though the names sound similar. That might be significant also.

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  38. I have observed that people often criticize science because it changes its mind and this they say supports the notion that the results of science aren't a reliable way to determine facts and knowledge. This is supposed to bolster Torah as a reliable way to determine facts and knowledge. The problem with this assumption is that it may be true that neither science or Torah are reliable ways to determine facts and knowledge. And even if were true that science is not reliable, it still doesn't in any way support, require, or prove that Torah is therefore a better way, much less a perfect way. That is, the argument is: "Since you are wrong, I must be right." But nothing prohibits both positions from being wrong at the same time, that the truth is actually something else altogether. Such arguments are simply faulty logic.

    These arguments, Torah vs. Science, seem to me to be senseless and moot. If you look at what science says is acceptable evidence, how it determines facts, and what it means by "truth" and compare that to what Torah says is acceptable evidence, how it determines facts, and what it means by "truth", you find that they don't agree on what is considered evidence, or what is a fact, and, most important, what is meant by "truth". If Torah and Science can't agree on how truth is determined and, most important, can't agree on just what is meant by "truth", how can you have a discussion, much less a debate? Since they can't even agree on what is meant by "truth", how can you know when one side has won the debate? If two people are going to have a discussion that is intelligible to both people, it is essential that the words they use have a common, agreed upon, meaning. If you don't have at least that, any useful debate is impossible. Because Torah and Science can't agree on the ground rules for the debate nor on what constitutes winning, there is no point at all to the debate.

    I just accept that they are two different, but useful, knowledge systems. Each has its realm. Each can be used to answer questions within its realm but they rarely can say anything useful about questions outside their own realm. It doesn't mean one is better or more "true", just different. Where is it written that Torah is an accurate and reliable book of science? How does one use science to determine right from wrong or explain how to treat other people? Knowing this, I apply science to questions within its realm and Torah to questions within its realm. Now I have two reliable tools to understand and manage in this world whereas people who only admit that one or the other is reliable only have one tool. The trick is to know when to apply which tool. I think it is important to understand that, from the point of view of other, they each look illogical, stupid, implausible.

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  39. That is of course the 11th century BCE. And I should have written paleo-Hebrew (not proto). That is the text in which items like the Gezer calendar and Chizkiyahu's tunnel inscription are written.

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    1. How did thousands of amphibians and birds end up in the same bed?

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  40. Carol - I believe Rashi says that was what caused the flood.

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  41. About the camels - if they were domesticated in Arabia in 2000 BCE, it is irrational to suggest that they did not cross the land of Canaan on their way to the most powerful civilization and economy of the time, Egypt.

    As Michah Berger points out, the way they are used in the Bible, esp the Rivkah story, supports the theory that they were not raised locally.

    The rush to gleefully say, "this proves that the Bible is wrong!" is unprofessional and childish. Or rather, it should be considered unprofessional. Unfortunately, there are several professions where that is the only way to make headlines, rational or not.

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  42. It should be pointed out that some claim that the letter gimmel comes from a throwing stick (shaped like a boomerang), and not a camel. Of course, they may say that based on the idea that camels weren't domesticated...

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  43. Kira wrote,"The rush to gleefully say, "this proves that the Bible is wrong!" is unprofessional and childish. Or rather, it should be considered unprofessional."

    It pained me to read the comments to the linked article from Times of Israel about camels in the Tanach. Most of the comments are from Jews that have already concluded that the Tanach has no Divine origin, and no amount of apologetics will convince them. The article (or rather, the headline of the article) only strenghtens their convictions.
    Perhaps if they were made aware of a rationalist approach, they would feel that Judaism can still have relevance in their lives.

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  44. Nice little blog post on this subject at the times of israel:

    http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/bce-biblical-camels-explained/

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  45. I note that the NY Times now features an article about the cited camel find. Of course, it describes the Genesis accounts of domesticated camels as anachronistic. Such firm conclusions are drawn on the basis of bones dug by TU archaeologists at 2 sites, in the Aravah valley and a corresponding site in Jordan. This article mentions camel bones from an earlier stratum that "probably belonged to wild camels". Pray, tell, how can these archaeologists be confident that they have uncovered the earliest domesticated camels? If such camels were relatively rare in Canaan prior to the late 900s BCE, then their bones may have escaped uncovering until now. Besides, those earlier bones that were, apparently, not carefully examined may have been from domesticated camels which did not carry heavy loads and so have modified leg bones.

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  46. I note that the media still carries the tale of the allegedly late (<940BCE) camel introduction to Judea/Canaan. It is a continuing source of aggravation, if not anger, at the archaeologists involved, their institution (TAU), and the columnists who are eager to trumpet an alleged disproof of the biblical (Genesis) narrative. A rational view of the evidence and its implication suggests nothing of the sort that is claimed. It only suggests that camels conditioned or bred for heavy load bearing (as evidenced from the appearance of leg bones) were introduced in the Arava valley to carry heavy loads of smelted copper ore late in the 10th century BCE. That's it! Ir does not inform the timing of the Genersis narratives involving camels. Those camels were not carrying heavy loads, nor were they alleged to be common.

    It is unconscionable for researchers to attempt to drive their data beyond their obvious implications. It is equally unconscionable for a university to promote such unwarranted generalizations aimed at the integrity of an ancient text that is of great religious significance. It serves, instead, to charge both the researchers and the institution of having a secular agenda. Nor is this pair of archaeologists the only members of that department who are guilty of such behavior. A more prominent example is Israel Finkelshtein who has insisted that David was merely a local chieftain despite archeological evidence in the far north of his presence and influence.

    This line of argument was reasonably clear from the time of the earliest report of the radiocarbon camel bone findings, and the media inquiry should have provided R' Natan with an opening to voice a different perspective. After all, he must include camels in his biblical animal encyclopedia. What does he intend to write about the time frame of the narratives in Genesis that involve camels?

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